Eric Bana Talks About The Hulk

Thursday, June 5 2003

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Interview : Eric Bana

He's big, He's Green, He's part i-mac..nope, it ain't Shrek, but the legendary comic creation "The Hulk", bought to life for the big screen with Ang Lee behind the wide-lens and Australian actor Eric Bana in his first major Hollywood starring role, as 2003's biggest Superhero.

Eric Bana is the latest Australian seeking Hollywood gold and The Hulk may well be his ticket to superstardom. PAUL FISCHER reports.

Question: Was it your butt or a double?
Answer: It was mine. It was mine. Doubles, I’m not at that point in my career yet where I could ask for one, so no. It was my freezing ass up in The Sequoias.

Question: How do you feel about the digital character building off of your performance?
Answer: I guess it’s something you’re not really- - on a day to day sense, you’re not really consciously aware of. You’re aware of the pressure of Bruce Banner having to work. Otherwise we’re all in trouble. But no, there were never a lot of conscious decisions I would make that would be about ‘Okay, well, later on when the Hulk does this…’ Pretty much, I have to service Bruce because I knew it was kind of the other way around. I knew that ILM would be chasing what I was doing in a lot of respects. And when I saw the film, that was the thing that I was most thrilled about, was I felt like they had totally managed to drag character into that CGI figure. That was what blew me away. Not only was it beautiful- - I thought the effects were actually beautiful in the film, but I thought that they had really actually put character into it.

Question: How much did you know about the Hulk?
Answer: I was very familiar with the television series. I’ve probably seen every episode and I wasn’t a huge comic book reader as a kid. So, I guess the television show was the only thing I was really familiar with.

Question: Did you test for the part?
Answer: No, I didn’t. Not in the traditional sense.

Question: Why do you think you got this role?
Answer: I’m too scared to ask Ang. I don’t know what transpired. I know it was a combination of things but I don’t exactly know. There were times in pre-production where I started to freak out and wanted to ask him. I thought no. I don’t need to be aware of it.

Question: Wasn’t it Chopper?
Answer: Yeah, I’m sure the stuff that I’d done in the past had a big bearing which was very flattering. It was kind of nice not having to audition obviously. I probably wouldn’t have got the part if I had to audition. So yeah, but I never really specifically said, ‘So, what elements are we looking for here?’ I just kind of didn’t want to know.

Question: How much will this change your career, or has it already?
Answer: Yeah, it has a bit. I mean, for the last, I guess, year and a half, two years, there’s been some wonderful opportunities and offers and I take them all very seriously and try to be very choosy. That, to me, is the greatest guarantee in what’s happening to me now and obviously it helped me find this incredible role that I’m doing now over on Troy. Yeah, it opens up doors and that, to me is where it’s at.

Question: Are there similarities between Chopper and Hulk?
Answer: Maybe a couple here and there. I guess the difference is I think Chopper is a more self-indulgent character. He’s more self-serving whereas Bruce is far, far more innocent. Even though I do have some obvious empathy for a lot of elements of Mark Read’s character, it was more kind of self serving whereas Bruce is not. It’s different. Bruce isn’t in control.

Question: What makes you angry?
Answer: Well, I have two children, so I’m usually Hulked out by eight a.m. probably two or three times.

Question: Are they old enough to see this movie?
Answer: No, no, they’re not. They’re very young so they won’t be seeing this for quite some time.

Question: Do they know what comic books are?
Answer: No. They’re not quite four and one year old, so they’re very young.

Question: Talk about working with Ang Lee?
Answer: Well, it was really incredible. I guess in this film it was intensely draining because not only were you trying to capture performance but then you had to do it a billion times because of the coverage he wanted to have to choose from. Which really takes a lot of effort and trust because as a performer, it’s not just about nailing it. It’s about nailing it from 40 angles, you know, just so he can choose to do things with the split screen and all the rest. So, it did help to have a lot of respect for the director on those days, as opposed to saying, ‘How many more freakin’ times?’ It did make those days a little easier.

Question: How many takes did he do?
Answer: There’s a scene with Sam Elliot and I were after I Hulk out and I’m at the dining room table with Jennifer, he comes with all these security guards and we sit on the couch and have a conversation, I think we did close to 140. Might’ve been more because then we picked up a couple more after.

Question: What were the differences take to take?
Answer: Energy. Energy was higher on some of them. It was a lot.

Question: Where did you get by take 140?
Answer: You go to so many different places as a person and as a performer. I remember at about 70, Sam and I losing it as they were setting up for another angle. I was sure they’d exhausted every possible camera angle and technique in the world, and I’d forgotten about the crane. I think Ang was almost ready to move on and the DOP came in and said, ‘Ang, I think we should do a high crane.’ ‘Yeah, we’ll do a high crane now.’

Question: Was this for the comic book panelling or just angles?
Answer: Yeah, well both.

Question: I don’t remember panelling in that scene.
Answer: The bastard didn’t use it.

Question: Does it concern you that half the performance is CGI?
Answer: No. Again, I think you’re just so anxious about and paranoid about delivering what you’re responsible for which for me was always just Bruce. And I knew that the rest was out of my hands. And I was quite comfortable with that. I actually liked the fact that even though you’re kind of the lead, there’s plenty there to take away from you which is kind of nice.

Question: Is this the first time you’ve played an American role?
Answer: No, I played an American in Black Hawk Down.

Question: Is it hard to do the accent?
Answer: Yes and No. It’s actually CGI in this movie. [joking] Yes and no. Luckily for me, with a sketch comedy background, I’ve had to do it for a long time. But I always figure there are two American accents. There’s the one that kind of sounds okay and there’s one that sounds perfect and I think if we’re going to come and take jobs, it needs to sound perfect. So yeah, I’m pretty conscious of it.

Question: You started in sketch comedy?
Answer: I started out in stand-up in 1990 and in about ‘92 moved across into television sketch comedy and did that for about six years. I did stand-up right up until like two years ago.

Question: Are you planning any comedic film projects?
Answer: Not at the moment, no. It all seems a bit too good to be true to sort of bridge the cross into drama and it’s a bit of a mystery here. The comedy background is kind of like having two lives. Over there, they come and they go, ‘How do you get away with dramatic stuff.’ Here, they say, ‘Oh, you don’t look funny.’ It’s perfect.

Question: How much prep time did you have for Hulk?
Answer: We had a bit of rehearsal. We sat down and did some specific rehearsals for a couple of weeks leading up to the production starting. But I had a lot of time to prepare. I had deliberately not taken any other projects so I’d have the time. So, I probably had maybe five months to get ready for it. Back home, and I got here about a month and a half before we started filming.

Question: How much of your life was taken up by Hulk?
Answer: Well, I prepped at home for probably four or five months. Had about a month and a half here before we started shooting and then the shoot was five and a half months. So I guess all up, it’s almost like a year long job. They apparently tell me some movies get shot in eight to 10 weeks. I haven’t found one of those yet, so it’s still a mystery.

Question: What elements did you like most about the movie, the action or emotion?
Answer: Obviously, the acting, I think all the performances are great and I’m really thrilled with that. I like the depth. I think it’s different to anything we’ve seen before and that’s what I’m most excited about.

Question: How are you preparing your family for your meteoric rise?
Answer: It’s actually quite simple. We live back home in Australia, in Melbourne and I’ve been known at home for a long time and we’re able to live a very, very normal existence that doesn’t really change. I mean, it changes professionally obviously, but personally, to be honest, my theory is it’s as much as you want to bite off and I’m not interested in biting too much off.

Question: How long have you been married?
Answer: About six years.

Question: How did you meet?
Answer: We actually met through work. My wife is a publicist at a television network that I was working at. We were friends for a few years and then we became partner.

Question: Her name?
Answer: Her name’s Rebecca.

Question: Talk about working with Nick Nolte.
Answer: It was probably the biggest highlight for me. He was quite literally one of my favourite actors of all time and so when I got the phone call saying, ‘You know, Nick Nolte’s playing your father’ I literally had to pick myself off the floor. And the scenes with him, they were the most fun even though they were emotionally the most traumatic, they were also the most fun because there’s an element to Nick that makes you feel like you’re in a sand pit and you’re four years old. Really, he just makes acting what it’s meant to be and never lets you forget that we’re here and we’re playing. Yes, it’s serious and yes, it’s dramatic, but let’s play. So, as a result, you both end up in this place that’s kind of different. You just get taken away and it’s just awesome. Some of my favourite days on this film were stuff I had with Nick.

Question: Any Nolte anecdotes?
Answer: I remember one day he came in and he had an oxygen tank. And he was taking hits of oxygen from this oxygen bottle. I remember looking at him thinking, ‘Nick, what on earth are you doing with this oxygen bottle? Is that really necessary?’ And he turned it off and looked at me and said, ‘Well, not really, but it makes them think you’re crazy.’ [INHALES] And he’s right, isn’t he?

Question: How did you lose your Chopper weight?
Answer: It’s very boring. Lots of exercise and lots of boring food, unfortunately. I’ve discovered the secret to weight loss which is the fact that there’s no secret.

Question: What other comic book movies were you offered?
Answer: There was never a situation where someone said, ‘You can play this, this, this, this and this.’ I know that there’s been kind of speculation about it but I met with Avi Arad sometime before this project came up and he told me about the projects that were coming up and asked me if I had any interest in doing this kind of work and I said maybe. Then, this came up and I said definitely. So, it wasn’t specifically like I was directly offered any roles that other people have [SOUNDS LIKE: since now played]. I wouldn’t like to take anything away from them.

Question: What was your stand-up routine like?
Answer: It was pretty- - I’d describe it as funny, of course. It was kind of laid back and anecdotal.

Question: Stuff about your life?
Answer: Yeah, it was kind of storytelling. I was never a big joke writer, so it was more kind of storytelling interspersed with some voices and characters and stuff like that, which is why I ended up in the sketch comedy. Someone had seen my act and said you should really try out for this sketch comedy program because it would be a good fit for you. He did then go on to say that you’re not very good at stand-up comedy. So yeah, it was something that happened early on and I loved it. I do miss it occasionally, definitely.

Question: You play Hector in Troy?
Answer: Yes.

Question: So you win over Brad?
Answer: Depends on which Iliad you’ve read.

Question: That’s The Iliad.
Answer: No, it’s the other way around.

Question: He has Achilles Heel.
Answer: Should I spoil it?

Question: Are you nervous about being forever associated with The Hulk?
Answer: Yeah, I guess you- - I mean, I probably take my choices too seriously, so yeah, I did think about it obviously. In one sense, it’s what you guys call a no-brainer, but in the other sense, yes I do definitely think about everything very seriously. So, yeah, it was a consideration but I’m more than comfortable with it, especially after seeing the film because I think there’s so much there that takes it away from you, that I’m comfortable with that.

Question: You’re happy with the movie?
Answer: Yeah, yeah, thrilled.

Question: Met or exceeded your expectations?
Answer: Pretty much met what I’d dreamt the movie could have been. I didn’t honestly expect it to be that. I don’t think you can, but then to see it be what it is, I was really thrilled.

Question: Have you worked with Brad yet?
Answer: Yeah, we’re nearly halfway through with production.

Question: Signed for Hulk sequels?
Answer: You’ll have to wait and see.


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